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Sister Species | Light Exchanges

This superb chamber-pop outfit boasts a secret weapon: Three trumpet players.


In a world of copycats and clones, Sister Species are a unique musical hybrid. The Minneapolis chamber-pop septet led by smoky singer-songwriter and accordionist Emily Kastrul boasts a sui generis lineup that includes three — count ’em, three — trumpet players along with the standard guitar and rhythm section. That triple-strength brass powerhouse turns out to be one of the band’s secret weapons, topping Kastrul’s smart, stylish, subtle and sophisticated songwriting with everything from lushly layered harmonies and intricately syncopated rhythmic counterpoint to impressionistic between-song musical vignettes. Their work adds a high-flying, jazzy element to the gorgeously grounded proceedings, elevating Light Exchanges beyond the norm and creating an album that occasionally comes tantalizingly close to answering the age-old musical question: What would it sound like if Joni Mitchell sang for Chicago?

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Fronted by accordionist/songwriter Emily Kastrul (Betazoid, Hazel Ra), chamber-pop septet Sister Species is known for their thoughtful, dynamic arrangements and opulent three-part trumpet harmonies. Sister Species’ full-length records Heavy Things Do Move and Closer Now have been hailed as “warm and luminous,” showcasing Kastrul’s vision and ability to lead six other band members “through the chaos to something beautiful.” With a keen eye for the natural world and emotional terrain, Kastrul crafts raw and vibrant songs that are equal parts celebration and lament. Featuring the three-part trumpet section of Jake Baldwin (Har Mar Superstar, McNasty Brass Band), Noah Ophoven-Baldwin (Percheron, Realtree) and Sten Johnson (McNasty Brass Band, New Sound Underground), guitarist Willow Waters (The Earth Tones, Still Unstill), bassist Ryan Hays (The Earth Tones, Still Unstill), and drummer Lars Johnson (McNasty Brass Band, Radiochurch), Sister Species’ full ensemble supports Kastrul’s intimate and intricate songwriting. Light Exchanges is a love letter to staying put. Written with a gardener’s eye, the album is full of acute & sensual observations about our daily lives & practices, from cutting onions to holding hammers to magnolias in bloom. Ranging from a pop song about the inevitable heat death of the universe to a drone-influenced track about loss & cottonwood trees, Light Exchanges is punctuated by trumpet interludes that serve as emotional counterpoints to the songs. Imagine the trumpets as alien guides bringing the listener through the galaxy to visit the different planets of lyrical songs.”